Thursday, 14 March 2019

Punctuated Equilibrium

"There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen." - Lenin

I don't know what Lenin thought about evolution. Stalin in the other hand was very opposed to the idea of genetics on ideological grounds. Indeed in the Soviet Union of the 1930s it was said that for a child to look like its father was bad, because it showed the importance of family background, whereas to look like the man who lived next door was good, because it showed the importance of the environment in which one grew up. Lamarckism (a) - essentially the hypothesis that parents can pass on learned or acquired attributes to their offspring - was not just believed, but put into practice, adding to the country's agricultural woes.

The current most widely accepted view of evolution is Punctuated Equilibrium, which posits that evolution is not a steady, gradual process, but rather long periods of nothing changing and then periods of very rapid change following some sudden external stimulus such as meteor strikes, volcano eruptions etc. We might agree with Lenin (b) that there is some read across from biology to politics. My own working experience leads me to believe the same is true of business. 

The problem with the social sciences is that it is often very difficult to test hypotheses by experiment. The rest of the world can therefore be grateful to the UK for arranging - courtesy of the ignorance and prejudice of much of its population and the fecklessness and timidity of its political class - to shortly run an experiment in seeing how a country's economy reacts to taking a sledgehammer to its trading relationships. Will the dodo learn to fly? I have my own opinion, but we won't have long to wait to find out.

(a) For those desperately seeking some wargaming content, Lamarck served in the French army in the Seven Years War and was commissioned as a result of bravery on the battlefield,
(b) For the record, I know perfectly well that Lenin certainly didn't write that quote and almost certainly never said it either.

1 comment:

  1. I take great comfort in watching politicians squirm under pressure !